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Riven Rock Paperback – January 1, 1999
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Over the next 20 years, Stanley will go from catatonia to a semblance of normality (so long as there's no woman in sight and no sharp cutlery on the table). Eddie, however, will never play the leading role he'd envisioned, instead taking refuge in alcohol and recollections of the one woman he thinks he has let get away, the plainspoken, explosive Giovannella Dimucci. When Eddie first describes his patient's violent response to women, "he wondered if he'd gone too far, if he'd shocked her, but the mask dissolved and she leaned in close, her hand on his elbow. 'Sounds like the average man to me.'" As for Katherine McCormick, she will still visit every Christmas, hoping to at least see her husband if she can't see him get better.
Based on a true story, Riven Rock is unclassifiable, a discomforting and often hilarious mix of tragedy and comedy. (Only Orson Welles could do the book justice on film.) T. C. Boyle writes in a controlled frenzy of rich description and dialogue, pulling us up sharply each time we begin to wonder if his patient isn't a helpless victim. Eddie recalls one nurse before Stanley "got to her": "She was a shadow in a back corner of his mind, a cat you pick up to stroke and then put down again when it stops purring.... Now she was back in Rhode Island, with her mother, but the look of her that day, the way her eyes had melted away to nothing and the color had gone out of her so you could see every lash and hair on her head like brushstrokes in oil, came to him in infinite sadness."
Boyle has great empathy, but there is no avoiding his novel's comic energy. Stanley's first psychiatrist-jailer, Dr. Hamilton, is obsessed with primate sexuality and will go to Riven Rock only if Katherine funds a large living laboratory. He spends all of his time watching the imprisoned creatures copulate, a pathetic counterpoint to his patient's plight. The sight of the disheveled doctor following one animal encounter amuses even the suspicious Katherine. "To his credit, the doctor laughed too. And O'Kane, the bruiser, who'd gone absolutely pale at the tiny hominoids that couldn't have weighed a twentieth of what he did, joined in, albeit belatedly and with a laugh that trailed off into a whinny." Alas, all goes awry when Hamilton takes the joke too far and declares his chimps "the very devils--they're even worse than my patients." Riven Rock is a maximum-velocity study of love, primal energy, and what is sacrosanct in society: control. It is also about loyalty, absurdity, domesticity, and depravity, all of which, Boyle knows, coexist within the best of souls. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
-?Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Boyle apparently encountered the historical basis for *Riven Rock* soon after he moved to the Santa Barbara area some years ago. Yes, Stanley McCormick, the tall, handsome youngest son of the legendary inventor of the mechanical reaper, was indeed schizophrenic, he did indeed marry the wealthy socialite Katherine Dexter in 1904, and he did indeed spend most of his adult life locked away with doctors, nurses, and attendants in a palacial Montecito estate. In *Riven Rock*, Boyle takes the historical misfortune that was the McCormick-Dexter marriage and transforms it into a fascinating story that is at once tragic, bizarre, and pathetic, and yet which is also riddled with sometimes unexpected touches of humor.
The humorous veneer to this otherwise tragic tale stems from Boyle's skills as a savage social critic with an unerring eye for the foibles that are part and parcel of the human condition. Having already caricatured the faddish American cult of health and nutrition in *The Road to Wellville*, Boyle here lampoons the pretentions of early twentieth century psychiatry and in a broader way, the overall vapidity of upper class life and discourse.
And Boyle does so much more.Read more ›
He's so good that I've come to accept certain characteristics of his writing that others might call flaws. For example, I don't think he nails endings with real finality. His books just eventually get to a point where it's time to stop. Everything isn't necessarily wrapped up. Now, if you're looking for things tied up neatly you'll be disappointed. But if you know that's unlikely to happen you'll do just fine. A T.C. Boyle book is likely NOT to lead to Stanley's miraculous recovery. You may hope for it throughout, but any Boyle reader will know not to expect the obvious.
I also find that over various books some of his charactes start to be duplicated in variations. The Edward character from this one, for example, is much like other selfish - horney - fickle - pathetic (and yet charismatic) characters from Boyle stories and novels. It's a type he returns to again and again. Personally, I like that. I'll take a little break, and then pick up another T.C. novel soon.
Unfortunately, I was both frustrated and bored with this book. This is my first TC Boyle book and the man can write. I could smell Stanley's rotten teeth and I could see him scrubbing his toes. I also really shared (as best I could) Stanley's fear and disorientation at becoming like his mentally ill sister. This is probably part of the problem.
The story is about a guy with rich and mean parents who meets a girl who, despite the fact that he is CLEARLY becoming more and more mentally ill, marries him anyway. And this is no ordinary woman. This is the first female graduate of MIT, in the physical sciences, no less. This is a woman with a scientific and practical mind. Unfortunately, Boyle is saddled with the task of explaining sympathetically why this woman- despite all evidence suggesting she should borrow Julia Robert's running shoes from that flick last year and RUN LIKE HELL- doesn't. I just didn't buy it. I had assumed that Stanley didn't display evidence of mental illness until after they were married- but oh no. She had every opportunity to make like a tree.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I am a big fan of T.C. Boyle and this is one of his best. Its the story of Stanley McCormick, whose family developed a reaping machine, and they became quite a wealthy family. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Vrae
I feel rather sheepish to say that despite my long career as a reading fanatic, "Riven Rock" was my maiden introduction to T.C. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Ellie Norton
Somewhat inconsistent. Some very good. Some not so much. Just sort of ends without resolving much. Maybe that's the point and I'm not a sophisticated reader.Published 11 months ago by terry
Interesting look at a piece of US history and the treatment of those with mental health issues. A whole book could be written about Mrs. Read morePublished 12 months ago by Liz
I thought it could have used a bit of editing. The last half seemed to drag on and on.Published 13 months ago by Mary E. Cody
An interesting story, especially as I grew up in Santa Barbara descended from long term residents and had always heard tales of the crazy McCormicks up at Riven Rock. Read morePublished 17 months ago by Berta
some dirty pages...too many for the "new" option.Published 19 months ago by Bernhard Recklinghausen
Not one of TC Boyle's best books. I enjoyed his others. Too fragmented it was difficult to follow the plot.Published 20 months ago by M. Hull
But too long - I cannot figure out how authors and editors let a great tale get blemished by an extra 75 pages that do not add much value.Published on April 12, 2014 by Amazon Customer